Greenway coordinator honored

Shortly after heading northwest on the Bear Creek Greenway near Ashland's dog park, pedestrians and bicyclists will cross over the newly named Karen Sue Fieguth Smith bridge.

Karen Smith, special projects manager for Jackson County, is retiring after 30 years of working on the 18-mile multi-use path that stretches from Ashland to Central Point.

"It's been her responsibility to take care of the Greenway Project," said Tom Foster, a member of the Greenway Foundation Board. "She's very deserving."

Smith said she didn't expect to be recognized and was surprised and honored by the selection.

"I was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing," Smith said. "When you work on a project for a long time, you have lots and lots of people helping out."

Sid and Karen DeBoer had naming rights to some part of the Greenway, due to a contribution they had made to the Greenway Foundation, and they asked Smith to choose what she would like to be named after her.

She chose the bridge just past the dog park because of its location on the first piece of property that she helped buy for the county for the Greenway project. (The land was not within the Ashland city limits at the time).

Not only was the land the first she helped buy, but the bridge is also in her hometown of Ashland, said Smith, a fifth-generation Rogue Valley resident.

On Feb. 13, about 90 community members attended a dedication ceremony at the bridge.

"It was a beautiful day," said Foster, noting that the weather worked in their favor. "It was just perfect out there."

Smith, who retires at the end of March, said working on the Greenway has been a real honor.

When she started, the Greenway consisted of 3.5 miles through Medford that was built by the Oregon Department of Transportation in 1973. After 30 years of land acquisition, planning, working with communities and trail construction, the Greenway spans 18.5 miles of the Rogue Valley.

Smith said by June the Greenway should be open under the new interchange structure in south Medford &

a nice ending to her work.

"I think it's a good time for some fresh energy and ideas to come into this project," said Smith, whose retirement plans include possibly cleaning out her garage and watching three days of movies at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

The Greenway conserves open space and provides a wildlife corridor, Smith said, and best of all, it will be here as long as people are around.

"It preserves a bit of the way the Valley used to be," Smith said. "I think the true value of the Greenway will be revealed in the years to come."

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